Sunday, December 11, 2011

Applause! Applause! Review of Joy Bogen's "Weill's Women In Song Plus..." by Andrew Martin

This review of Joy Bogen in a show entitled "Weill's Women In Song Plus..." at the D Lounge in Hotel Delmonico was written by Andrew Martin and appeared in Volume I, Issue 4 (February, 1998) of Applause! Applause! published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens.

"Weill's Women In Song Plus..." - Joy Bogen
D Lounge (Hotel Delmonico; 502 Park Avenue, NYC)
Reviewed 1/24/98 at 9:30 p.m.

Translated from the French, boite means box. In cabaret phraseology, the term boite actually refers to a boite de bijou, a box meant to showcase gems; a golden chanteuse on a small stage in the middle of an opulent setting. A new boite in the truest sense of the word has opened at the legendary Hotel Delmonico, called the D Lounge. This sleekly designed, ultramodern space, gilded to the hilt in soothing blues and gold accents, will be showcasing some of cabaret's brightest lights within the next few weeks, under the auspices of booker Paul Katz and press dynamo Bryan Utman. Among these are Hanson Award winner Mary Foster Conklin, Rita Ellis Hammer, Barbara Lea, Paul Katz's own tribute to Peter Allen, and the Manhattan Transfer's own Janis Siegel. Your humble reporter was invited to catch the club's first-ever act, newcomer Joy Bogen, in "Weill's Women In Song Plus...", as homage to composer Kurt Weill, in preparation of her return engagement on February 20th. Not since the work of Angelina Reaux in the mid-80's has cabaret heard so glorious a soprano, who is perfectly matched with such classic numbers from the Weill catalog as a chilling "Pirate Jenny", as well as a short-but-stunning unpublished song entitled "Letter To Davy Crockett" (featuring lyrics by Charles Allen). The fact that Bogen was the sole student of the formidable Lotte Lenya (yes, Mrs. Kurt Weill) only serves to heighten the songstress's splendiferous gift for interpreting this composer.

Not that the evening doesn't have a few problems. More than anything else, Bogen's sensational voice is at times so striking and awe-inspiring as to completely and utterly eclipse her acting abilities, which any devotee of the medium knows is as equally important in cabaret as possessing a voice -- indeed, many a favorite chanteuse on the New York cabaret scene are actresses first and vocalists second. A spoken opening in which Bogen portrays the Venus DeMilo before launching into a delicious "I'm A Stranger Here Myself" (lyrics here by Ogden Nash), is, unfortunately, just plain strange. And finally, one should remember an edict by the late Sylvia Syms to all cabaret singers that an essential aspect of the medium is to be able to convey sadness through song without benefit of actual tears. It seems she was right, given Ms. Bogen's achingly and unnecessarily wet reading of Weill's French ditty, "Je ne t'aime pas". On the flip side of this, however, and right on the heels of the song, is her lead-in to "Mon Dieu", prefaced by the news that Bogen's own father perished in the same plane crash that killed French prizefighter Marcel Cerdan, for whom Edith Piaf held her greatest love and affection.

Other highlights include a well-executed "Corcovado" by Jobim, and a duet with accompanist Paul Katz on "Anything You Can Do" which is nothing short of adorable; here, Bogen comes off much like an operatic Gracie Allen. (In fact, it makes one fervently wish that she'd try a whole host of comic material since the abilities for same are there in abundance).

Joy Bogen is wholeheartedly worth catching at the D Lounge on February 20th, but bear in mind that this act makes for a slightly bumpy ride on the cabaret train. Yet, in all fairness, the bumps are few and quite far between. In any case, cabaret has a new bonafide hotspot with the D Lounge, and we can only wish the owners and operators a hearty "bonne chance" with the running of New York's newest boite.

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